Students receive most competitive national fellowships in WSU history
More students have received competitive national fellowships for 2022-23 than at any time in the history of Wayne State.
The Office of Fellowships has been working overtime with students, with nine fellowships awarded to Warriors so far. They include Fulbright Student Program Awards, part of the flagship international academic exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; Critical Language Scholarships and the Rangel Graduate Fellowship, both programs of the State Department; the Marshall Scholarship, funded by the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission in London, England; and the Boren Award, an initiative of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office within the U.S. Department of Defense.
The programs provide funding for post-grad international study and research, or teaching English abroad, and are among the most sought-after awards in the world.
Weeks, months, and even whole semesters out from the deadline, students applying for foreign study fellowships begin working on their applications. The process is arduous and students oftentimes worked on their application alone or perhaps with the help of a faculty mentor.
But now students interested in national fellowships can apply with help and guidance from the Office of Fellowships, an initiative created in 2020 by the Office of International Programs as a one-stop-shop for fellowship opportunities across academic departments.
Political Science Professor Kevin Deegan-Krause is the fellowships faculty coordinator for the office, and says this initiative centralized efforts that many departments were doing individually.
“Two years ago, after realizing that we had a lot of separate and distinct efforts, the Office of International Programs, under Vice President Ahmad Ezzeddine, made it possible to create a single office that was able to work with students across all different programs,” Deegan-Krause explains.
Students can learn about available fellowships online and meet in-person with Deegan-Krause or project coordinator Catherine Franklin. Once an appropriate fellowship is identified, students begin to draft essays and seek letters of recommendation. Then, Deegan-Krause helps them tighten up their essays with as many rewrites as necessary and signs off with a letter of support from the university, which is required for most applications. The team and staff from OIP assists with mock interviews to help applicants prepare and build confidence for the real thing.
While many students might think fellowships are only available to the Ivy League, Deegan-Krause says that is not at all the case. Many programs are flooded with apps from high-end and private institutions, but there is a real interest in providing opportunities to first-gen students or those from under-represented groups. Well-prepared Wayne State students can be exactly the type that decision committees want.
“We have a really strong capability to pursue our goal of creating a culture of fellowship at Wayne State, and the consciousness in students and faculty to know that these programs exist and build a sense that they can win this,” he says. “Wayne State students are just as viable as any other students.”
Even if students are not awarded a fellowship, the application process itself is valuable.
“This is our mantra, that it is great when you win because you get to do this, but even if you don’t win it is so important to have done one of these applications,” Deegan-Krause explains. “What we found is that just the process of sitting down and finding answers to the application questions, thinking about a research project that you can enjoy or get into, and what you want your future to be is rewarding.”
Deegan-Krause has his own experience applying for a Fulbright scholarship, which helped him discover a lot about who he is, and what he wanted to do.
“When I was a graduate student in the mid-1990s I received a Fulbright scholarship to the Czech Republic and Slovakia,” Deegan-Krause says. “I was there for an academic year, and the Fulbright enabled me to do a substantial amount of research in two countries that were not studied very much up until that point.”
Deegan-Krause has also served as a Fulbright reviewer and was able to select the next round of students after his graduate Fulbright concluded. As both a recipient and reviewer, Deegan-Krause is deeply familiar with the process and sits in a good position to guide students through it. He hopes that more students at Wayne State will consider applying for fellowships and the Office of Fellowships is eager to help. He says the kind of education you get from living and studying in another country is transformative.
“It vastly increases your understanding of the world, and your own country as well since you can see it through someone else’s eyes,” Deegan Krause says. “The Fulbright is more than just travel, since it is a long-term stay, you can immerse yourself in the daily life of a country. It has some real advantages over just travel; there is a different kind of experience that comes from being in a place for the long term.”
-- By Patrick Bernas, Office of International Programs editorial associate
The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.